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Top 5 South African Recipes to Try at Home

South African cuisine is a captivating blend of flavors deeply rooted in the country's diverse history. From hearty pot dishes like potjiekos and bobotie to comforting porridges like pap and amasi, each dish tells a unique story.

South African cuisine is a captivating blend of flavors deeply rooted in the country's diverse history. From hearty pot dishes like potjiekos and bobotie to comforting porridges like pap and amasi, each dish tells a unique story.

The country’s traditional recipes are a true reflection of the nation's history, blending influences from African communities, European settlers, Asian traders, and more. The result is a vibrant tapestry of culinary traditions that have evolved over generations, creating a truly unique gastronomic experience.

Here, you will get easy-to-follow and detailed recipes of some of the most celebrated dishes of South Africa. Without any further ado, let’s begin this flavorful ride.

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1. Chakalaka

 This recipe is a tasty bombardment of spices, flavors, vegetables cooked together to create this delicious bowl of comfort and happiness. Prepared with simple veggies like tomatoes and beans, it is served as a side dish with barbeques, breads, meats, stews, etc.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped.
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1-2 green chilies, finely chopped (adjust according to your spice preference)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced.
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced.
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced.
  • 2 medium carrots, grated.
  • 1 can (400g) baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)


  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat.
  • Add the chopped onions and sauté until they become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the minced garlic and green chilies and cook for an additional minute, allowing the flavors to meld.
  • Add the diced red, yellow, and green bell peppers, and grated carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  • Mix in the baked beans in tomato sauce and the chopped tomatoes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  • Add the tomato paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, ground turmeric, salt, and black pepper. Stir to evenly distribute the spices.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the chakalaka for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to develop and the vegetables to become tender.
  • Taste the chakalaka and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding more salt or spices according to your preference.
  • If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add a splash of water to reach your desired consistency.
  • Once the chakalaka is cooked and the flavors have melded beautifully, remove it from the heat.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley if desired.

2. Bobotie

A traditional South African dish that is made from spiced minced meat topped with egg custard. This flavorful dish can be served with rice or a variety of side dishes. When baked, the golden-brown color and texture will leave you drooling. Here is the recipe for Babotie.


For the meat mixture:

  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) ground beef or lamb (you can also use a combination of both)
  • 1 large onion finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 2 slices of bread, soaked in milk.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • 2 tablespoons fruit chutney (apricot or mango chutney work well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)
  • Ingredients for Egg Custard topping:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • A pinch of salt

For garnishing, you can use bay leaves, sliced banana, or coconut flakes.


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent and soft.
  • Add the ground meat to the skillet and cook until it's browned, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the curry powder, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, sugar, vinegar, and chutney. Mix well to form a paste.
  • Stir the spice paste into the meat mixture, ensuring all the meat is evenly coated. Let it cook for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Squeeze the milk out of the soaked bread and add the soaked bread to the meat mixture. Mix well to combine.
  • Stir in the raisins or sultanas and slivered almonds (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer the meat mixture to a greased baking dish and spread it out evenly.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk for the custard topping. Add a pinch of salt and mix well.
  • Pour the egg custard mixture over the meat mixture in the baking dish, ensuring it covers the surface.
  • Optionally, decorate the top of the Bobotie with bay leaves, sliced banana, and coconut flakes for added visual appeal.
  • Bake the Bobotie in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes or until the egg custard is set and golden brown on top.
  • Once cooked, remove the Bobotie from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

3. Durban Chicken Curry

Durban’s own chicken curry is an amazing dish with aromatic spices and tender chicken pieces. This is one of the most popular South African dishes you can try.


  • 5 kg (3.3 lbs.) chicken pieces (skin-on and bone-in for extra flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions finely chopped.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated.
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to your desired level of spiciness)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
  • Cooked rice or bread for serving.


  • Start by heating vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Sauté the chopped onions until they become soft and translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  • Stir in the chicken pieces, ensuring they are coated with the onions, garlic, and ginger. Let the chicken brown slightly on all sides.
  • Now, mix in the curry powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, turmeric, and chili powder. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated with the spices.
  • Introduce the chopped tomatoes to the pot and allow them to cook down until their juices are released.
  • Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and bay leaf, stirring to distribute the spices throughout the chicken.
  • Pour in the chicken broth or water, making sure the chicken pieces are covered.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and let the curry cook for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken becomes tender and fully cooked.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, pour in the coconut milk and stir it into the curry. Let it simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste.
  • Serve the flavorful Durban Chicken Curry over cooked rice or with bread. Garnish it with fresh coriander leaves for a burst of freshness and aroma.
  • Enjoy your delightful Durban Chicken Curry, brimming with aromatic spices and succulent chicken!

4. MealiePap:

Mealie Pap, or just Pap, is a South African breakfast that is made from maize meal. It has a smooth and thick texture that makes it perfect for breakfast and can also be served as an accompaniment to other dishes. Here's a simple recipe to make delicious Mealie Pap:


2 cups maize meal (white or yellow, finely ground)

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Begin by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat.
  • Once the water reaches a boil, add the salt and stir it in until it dissolves completely.
  • While stirring constantly in one direction to prevent lumps, gradually pour the maize meal into the boiling water.
  • Keep stirring the mixture until it thickens and achieves a smooth and consistent texture without any lumps.
  • Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
  • Allow the Mealie Pap to simmer for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can add a little more water and stir until you reach your desired thickness.
  • Once the Pap is fully cooked and has the desired texture, remove the pot from the heat.
  • Serve the Mealie Pap by scooping it into bowls or plates. It pairs wonderfully as a side dish with stews, curries, grilled meats, or other savory dishes.
  • For added flavor, some people enjoy their Mealie Pap with a rich tomato and onion sauce, chakalaka, or a dollop of butter on top.
  • Savor the delightful taste of traditional South African Mealie Pap, a comforting and delicious addition to any meal!

5. Potjiekos

In South Africa, it literally means small-pot food, Potjiekos is an outdoor dish that is usually cooked in a three-legged cast-iron pot. This South African stew is a wonderful experience, and one must try it. Here’s how to make it.


  • 5 kg (3.3 lbs) beef or lamb, cubed (you can also use chicken or game meat)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 3 large carrots peeled and sliced.
  • 3 large potatoes peeled and cubed.
  • 2-3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (optional)
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped.
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces.
  • 1 cup baby corn, halved (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Potjiekos spice mix (you can find premade spice mixes at stores)
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh herbs for garnish (such as parsley or coriander)


  • Place your Potjie pot over medium-high heat and heat the vegetable oil.
  • In batches, brown the meat cubes until they are seared on all sides. Once browned, remove the meat, and set it aside.
  • Using the same pot, sauté the chopped onions until they turn translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic to the onions and cook for about a minute until it becomes fragrant.
  • Place the browned meat back into the pot on top of the onions and garlic.
  • Sprinkle the Potjiekos spice mix over the meat, ensuring it is evenly coated as you stir.
  • Introduce the chopped tomatoes and add a splash of broth to create a flavorful sauce.
  • Layer the vegetables on top of the meat in the pot. Begin with carrots, followed by potatoes, butternut squash (if using), green beans, and baby corn (if using).
  • Pour the remaining broth and red wine (if using) over the vegetables.
  • Season the Potjiekos with salt and pepper according to your taste. Remember to be cautious with salt as the Potjiekos spice mix usually contains some.
  • Cover the pot with its lid and let the Potjiekos simmer on low heat. Cooking time can vary depending on the type of meat used but usually takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.
  • Remember to check and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Once the meat becomes tender, and the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, your Potjiekos are ready to serve.
  • Garnish the Potjiekos with fresh herbs and serve it directly from the pot. This delightful South African dish is often enjoyed with rice or freshly baked bread.
  • Relish the heartwarming flavors of Potjiekos as you share this delicious meal with your loved ones!